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Should Maryland be happy or upset about its placement in the bracket?

Should Maryland be happy or upset about its placement in the bracket?

Now that we officially know what Maryland’s full region looks like, including its now-decided opening round matchup with Belmont, it’s time to break down the potential path to this year’s Final Four. Is their draw on the easier end? Harder?

Let’s make the case for both.

Good Draw

As far as narratives go, it’s easy to make the case for a 6-seed being an easier draw than a 4 or a 5. The winner of the 4/5 game almost certainly has to face their region’s 1-seed in the Sweet 16. In this year’s East region, that means top overall seed Duke.

As a 6-seed, Maryland avoids a potential matchup with Duke until the Elite 8. Not only does this theoretically give them longer to survive, but it gives Duke more chances to fall to another opponent before reaching that point.

Beyond the perspective of how it lines up Maryland compared to Duke, the Terps were also fortunate within their pod.

First off, while Belmont looks like a tough matchup for a team built like Maryland, it's are coming off a First Four win less than 48 hours prior to Thursday’s tip-off. Plus, with Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith, the Terps hold a sizable frontcourt advantage over the Bruins.

Looking ahead, they’ll either face an overmatched 14-seed in Yale or, more likely, 3-seed LSU. Of all the potential 3-seeds a 6-seed could be matched up with in the Round of 32, LSU is probably the most appealing.

Yes, the Tigers have loads of talent, just like Maryland. But they’ll also be without head coach Will Wade as the program continues to deal with repercussions from the FBI probe into college basketball. LSU has looked out of sorts in two games without Wade on the sidelines, and his absence could be a death knell into what was once a promising season in Baton Rouge.

If the Terps can win that game, they’ll get to play their next one (or two!) games in Washington, D.C., just miles away from their home campus in College Park, Md.

No one goes into the season wishing for a 6-seed, but for the Terps, this is as fortunate a draw as they could have asked for.

Bad Draw

Right off the bat, the Terps are seeded in the same region as Duke. That means being in the same region as the top overall seed in the country, a team that hasn’t lost at full strength since November. That means facing Zion Williamson.
Any team in the same region as Duke could call its draw a loss, and the Terps are no different. Duke is also one of the only programs that would still draw just as many fans in the nation’s capital as Maryland would.

That only matters if the Terps reach the Elite 8, which is a longshot. In its first game, Maryland has to play Belmont. Not only are the Bruins well-designed for an upset (they have one of the most prolific, efficient offenses in the country) but they have momentum on their side after beating Temple in the First Four. 

Maryland, on the other hand, has barely played in recent weeks and could be dealing with rust while Belmont comes out firing.

If the Terps can get past them, LSU likely awaits. Maryland has relied on having more talent than its opponents all season long, and LSU is one of the only schools with as much talent or more than this year’s Terrapins. Having more skill and athleticism has been their bread and butter, but it won’t work against the Tigers.

Past LSU, Maryland would need to face Michigan State, another program who would draw fans in D.C. Despite their injuries, the Spartans are a brutal matchup for Maryland, as Tom Izzo loves to push in transition, an area of weakness for Maryland. It’s also a rematch, and the Terps did not fare well in East Lansing this January.

This is the region with the strongest 1-seed, the strongest 2-seed (who should have been a 1), the most talented 3-seed, and a hot 11-seed. If Maryland makes a run to the Elite 8 and beyond, it will have been well-earned indeed.

Ultimately, this is probably a pretty appropriate draw for a team with Maryland’s resume. It can be framed as positive or negative, but in reality, it’s fair for a team coming off a roller coaster season and a slow finish. 

To win the big dance, you’ll eventually have to beat someone better than you. Maryland has the players to do it, and if so, no one in College Park will be complaining about their bracket.

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Jalen Smith's double-double helps Maryland rout Notre Dame

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Jalen Smith's double-double helps Maryland rout Notre Dame

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) -- Jalen Smith had 15 points and a career-high 16 rebounds as No. 3 Maryland cruised to a 72-51 victory over Notre Dame on Wednesday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Eric Ayala scored 14 points and Aaron Wiggins added 11 for the Terrapins (9-0), who are off to their best start since winning 10 in a row to open the 1998-99 season.

John Mooney had 17 points and 12 rebounds for Notre Dame (6-2), which had won six in a row since opening the season with a loss at North Carolina.

It took some time for the Terps' offense to get going, but their defense was sharp for nearly the entire first half. After falling behind 9-4, Maryland allowed just four points over the next 12:31.

Ayala scored seven points in a row to turn a one-point game into a 21-13 lead, and later delivered a tomahawk slam a minute before the break. Aaron Wiggins capped the half by getting the carom from his missed 3-pointer and slamming it home for a 32-20 lead.

Notre Dame never cut the deficit to less than 10 in the second half as Maryland snapped a six-game skid in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, a streak that began when the Terps were still in the ACC.

Smith recorded his fifth double-double of the season, matching his total from all of last season.

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Terps close first half vs. Notre Dame with two emphatic dunks (WATCH)

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Terps close first half vs. Notre Dame with two emphatic dunks (WATCH)

The Maryland Terrapins, like they have many times in the Mark Turgeon era, started off slow Wednesday night against Notre Dame.

But the Terps closed the first half by making eight of their final nine shots, including two very emphatic dunks.

The first came from sophomore Eric Ayala, who took the lead pass from forward Jalen Smith following a turnover and finished with a right-hand tomahawk.

The latter came from guard Aaron Wiggins. The sophomore attempted a three-point shot with just a handful of seconds remaining in the half, but realized his shot was off as soon as his feet hit the floor. 

Likely making his AAU coach happy, Wiggins followed his shot perfectly, grabbed the rebound and threw down the putback dunk just a couple of seconds before time expired, giving the Terps a 12-point lead at the break.

If the No. 3 Terps can hang on to their lead, it will be Maryland's first time starting 9-0 in around two decades.

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